Em Shotwell is a cancer survivor, foster care advocate, and white belt in Brazilian jiujitsu. Sometimes she writes about oddballs and the weirdos who love them. Her debut novel, Blackbird Summer, is available now. You can visit her online at www.EmShotwell.com or find her on her goodreads page.
Where did your inspiration to write Blackbird Summer start?
I always have characters before I have a plot. With Blackbird Summer, the first character I came up with was Evelyn, my main character’s grandma. I remember thinking, how cool would it be if someone was able to make flowers bloom simply by touching them?
This eventually morphed into the idea of giving off the power of life itself, making everything alive the best version of itself simply by being near.
Then I wondered how it would feel to be related to such a person, to someone so powerful, and how that would affect a person’s view of themselves. This is how Tallulah came to be. She is rather ordinary (or so she thinks) and struggles to find her place in her powerful family.
On top of that, she lives in a town that hates her simply for being a part of that family. (Being Magic in south Mississippi isn’t necessarily a good thing. People don’t like what they don’t understand.)
What was the hardest thing about writing Blackbird Summer?
Blackbird Summer was my first full-length novel, so that in itself was a daunting task. The more you write, the easier it becomes, but that first book just feels like such a huge undertaking. For me, getting over being intimidated and actually just doing it was probably the hardest part.
Writer’s block: How do you beat it?
I switch projects for a day and write something else. If that doesn’t work (it usually does) I take time and just read. A lot. This refreshes me, and usually gets me in the mood to get back to work.
Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?
I have so many! My favorite book is and always will be Wuthering Heights. My favorite SFF author is probably Octavia Butler. I consider her the mother of the modern dystopian novel. She was doing it and doing it well a decade before it was the genre behemoth that it is now. A newer book that I enjoyed is Vicious by V.E. Schwab. I will also read anything that Sarah Addison Allen writes. She could publish instructions on how to properly use a toothbrush and I’d buy it. I also love the voice in Joshilyn Jackson’s novels. She writes southern women’s fiction, but there isn’t anything fluffy about her books. She doesn’t shy away from the ugly parts of southern culture and writes complex relationships very well.
What do you absolutely need in order to write?
It’s cliché, but coffee. It helps me focus. I also will listen to music before getting started on a project, to help me get my mind right, but once I begin writing, I do better with complete silence. So I guess I need coffee and silence.
What do you love outside of writing and reading?
I am a mom to two amazing boys, and I adore doing things with them. We do everything from football games to comic-con, and we have a blast. I also love television. I know that “book people” kind of have this stigma that we turn our nose up at television—but I love campy television shows. Always have. Always will.
I have also recently gotten into Brazilian jiujitsu. I suck so bad, but it is seriously some of the most fun to be had.
Sneak Peek: The Chans
Em is giving away a free short-story eBook.
Follow the link to claim your copy of THE CHANS!
Logan has spent his entire life knowing he is different...
An invisible force has guided him through important—and not so important—decisions, always pointing him in the right direction. His Gram calls his sixth sense the Chans, a word that means luck in her native Haitian creole.
One afternoon, while driving home from a faculty meeting at the school where he teaches music, Logan feels the familiar tug of the Chans. Usually the pull is like a suggestion being whispered in his ear. This time, however, it is a demand—one he is compelled to follow.
When the Chans leads him to a ramshackle diner in an out-of-the-way rural Mississippi town, Logan thinks there must be a mistake. But before he talks himself into leaving, a woman walks in that will change his life forever.
When people fear the unknown, being GIFTED is a CURSE...
In the cornerstone of the rural south, Brooklyn, Mississippi, no one dares make eye contact with the strange Caibre family. Until the rewards are worth the cost. The townsfolk come, cash in hand, always at night, to pay for services only a Gifted can provide.
No matter the Gifts prevalent in her family, at twenty-one, Tallulah is expected to follow the path laid out for her: marriage, babies, and helping her mama teach the family home school program. She’s resigned to live the quiet life and stay out of trouble…until she meets Logan.
An outsider and all around rebel, Logan doesn’t care about her family’s reputation. Yet after a tragic loss wreaks havoc on the crumbling relationship between the Caibres and the townsfolk, Tallulah must decide if love and freedom are worth risking everything.
Want to read the first chapter for free? Click here!